Future Sustainable Energy Systems

by Guest-Author on May 1, 2012

The power industry is one of the few industrial sectors, which affect prosperity of every sphere of economic and social life and exert a direct influence on general technological progress. Much of the world’s energy, however, is currently produced and consumed in ways that could not be sustained if technology were to remain constant and if overall quantities were to increase substantially. The need to control atmospheric emissions of greenhouse and other gases and substances will increasingly need to be focused on efficiency and sustainability in energy production.

A sound energy policy should encourage a clean and diverse portfolio of domestic energy supplies. Such diversity helps to ensure that future generations will have access to the energy they need. Renewable energy can help provide for our future needs by harnessing abundant, naturally occurring sources of energy, such as the sun, the wind, and biomass. Effectively harnessing these renewable resources requires careful planning and advanced technology. Through improved technology, we can ensure that clean, natural, renewable and alternative energy sources will be used in the future. Renewable and alternative energy sources will not only help diversify world’s energy portfolio but they will do so with few adverse environmental impacts.

Alternative energy includes alternative fuels other than gasoline and diesel, the use of traditional energy sources, such as natural gas, in untraditional ways, such as for distributed energy at the point of use through micro-turbines or fuel cells and future energy sources, such as hydrogen and fusion.

The European Union’s (EU) main long-term goal in the field of energy is the conversion of the existing EU energy system, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to a sustainable energy system based on differentiated energy sources of higher energy efficiency. This will enable the EU to face the challenges posed by the security of the energy supply and the climate change while, at the same time, increasing the competitiveness of the European energy industries.

Both renewable and alternative energy resources can be produced centrally or on a distributed basis near their point of use. Providing electricity, light, heat, or mechanical energy at the point of use diminishes the need for some transmission lines and pipelines, reducing associated energy delivery losses and increasing energy efficiency. Distributed energy resources may be renewable resources, such as biomass cogeneration or rooftop solar photovoltaic systems on homes, or they may be alternative uses of traditional energy, such as natural gas micro-turbines.

Currently, Figure 1, oil holds an important position in the EU energy system since it is used widely in the industrial, residential and transport sectors. Natural gas is also used in all sectors including electricity generation (together with coal and nuclear energy). In the envisaged energy system between 2020-30, Figure 2, based on the long-term energy targets of the EU, the use of oil will be limited only to the transport sector.

Figure 1: Current EU energy system

Figure 2: EU energy system in 2020-30

Figure 3: EU energy system in 2040-50

Natural gas will emerge as the dominant energy source. In addition, the novel technologies of natural gas reforming and coal gasification with carbon capture and sequestration will, also, be used for hydrogen production which is an environmentally friendly fuel, free of harmful emissions. This will lead, further, to the creation of the first hydrogen communities in which green hydrogen will be produced from renewable energy sources of distributed generation. The first hydrogen power generation units, called HYPOGEN (hydrogen power generation) plants, will be in commercial use and will cover part of the electricity demand without any harmful emissions of carbon dioxide. By 2040-50, Figure 3, it is hoped that oil will be fully substituted by hydrogen as an energy source. Hydrogen will be generated either by the reforming of natural gas and gasification of coal or by renewable energy sources. This step will complete the transformation of the existing energy economy to a hydrogen economy.

Author: Dr. Andreas Poullikkas, PhD
email: apoullik@eac.com.cy

Dr. Andreas Poullikkas holds a B.Eng. degree in mechanical engineering, an M.Phil. degree in nuclear safety and turbomachinery, and a Ph.D. degree in numerical analysis from Loughborough University of Technology, U.K. He has over 20 years experience on research and development projects related to the numerical solution of partial differential equations, the mathematical analysis of fluid flows, the hydraulic design of turbomachines, the nuclear power safety, the analysis of power generation technologies and the power economics. He is the author of various peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings. He is the author of the postgraduate textbook: Introduction to Power Generation Technologies (ISBN: 978-1-60876-472-3) and of the book: The Cyprus Energy Future (ISBN: 978-9963-9599-4-5). He is, also, a referee for various international journals, serves as a reviewer for the evaluation of research proposals related to the field of energy and a coordinator of various funded research projects. He is a member of various national and European committees related to energy policy issues. He is the developer of various algorithms and software for the technical, economic and environmental analysis of power generation technologies, desalination technologies and renewable energy systems.

About the Author

Contact the author

Previous post:

Next post: